Even with Karen and Liam's birthdays, weekends at work packing, preparing for Christmas and a south coast derby we still managed to get quite a bit done this month, especially completing the front bedroom ready for Anne to stay over Christmas. I arranged for a garden design company called Floral and Hardy to come in and and discuss the design of the patio area which is in desperate need of replacement. While they were here Jason replaced bargeboard at the back of the house and repaired a few damaged tiles.
Karen painted the front bedroom and waxed all the woodwork while I fitted the sockets, lights and skirting ready for the carpet to be fitted. We moved all the furniture into the room the weekend before Christmas. We have a habit of rushing around finishing rooms just before Christmas (see December 2010)!
Jason came and tiled the floor of the shower in the hot tub room so with some luck we can start to use the sauna again in the New Year. I bought and put up Christmas lights on the house and realised just how badly the cement has decayed holding the roof tiles on. Another job for next year. The final bit of work this year was to insulate the loft space above the front bedroom ceiling on Christmas eve, a difficult job in a very tight space to put me in the Christmas spirit.
We continued to catch mice in the house until I finally found a small hole under the render drip where they were getting in. A total of 9 were caught. Karen finished painting the workshop and also painted the render below the drip on the front of the games room while I fitted new doors in front bedroom and put up new plasterboard ready for plastering. I built a cupboard over the awkward slope at the top of the stairs and connected the underfloor heating. Then Jason and Steve came in and plastered the room in one day. A fantastic job as usual.
Luke helped me install the underfloor heating pipe and then we then put down the new floor and then began to work on removing the walls and ceiling ready for re-insulating with celotex. I installed the hot air ducting in the bedroom and then Karen cut the celotex to insulate the roof and front wall before I then started to put up new plasterboard ready for plastering.
The house and workshop were rendered which gave Karen and me a few weekends of rubbing down and painting. I spent a day at the top of the scaffold tower doing the chimney while Karen did the front of the house. I took another day putting the lights back up while Karen painted the side of the house. I also finally got around to cleaning the conservatory roof and starting to tackle the builders mess outside while Karen continued to paint the back of the house. I completed the plasterboard in the front bedroom while Karen started to rub down and paint the workshop. I put up some more gutting and downpipes before doing a bit more tidying up outside, however the place still looks like a tip (but the newly painted walls do look nice).
With all the building work over the past months the house has had many "holes" to the outside world which meant that mice got in. We have caught two in the kitchen so far and we are hoping that might be the only mice now that the rendering has been completed. However, we have another problem in that Luke's bedroom keeps getting flies in it but we can not tell where they are getting in. The facia in the back of the house still needs to be replaced and there is a big hole so we are hoping that this is where the problem is.
The month started by working on the front bedroom which I am determined to get finished. The remaining floor was removed and the electrics were tidied up. I built a false stud wall to allow for a bigger door into the service cupboard and provide an accessible route for the household electrics. I also moved the opening for the access hatch for easy access to the eaves and the ducting. Unfortunately the floor joists in the room were very uneven so I had to plane some down and build some up to get a roughly level area before I could insulate between the rafters and put down the spreader plates.
Spent time clearing up the hot tub room because we were struggling to get to the building supplies and also to allow us to think about starting work on the shower. I removed the oil boiler In the utility room and Jason took down the flue outside and prepared the outside for the rendering by taking down the lights, hanging the new back gate and replacing some of the fascia, soffits and gutters. A trench was dug ready for the drainage from the workshop gutters.
We loaded up the new wood store with all the wood delivered last year and stocked up the internal cupboard ready for the cold weather. I ran a big cable from the fuse box across the loft down to the study ready for connection to the workshop so now we need to get another trench dug to bury and armoured cable.
Karen spent the summer holiday working in the front garden to further develop the borders and also try to prepare the ground where the tree had been ready for seeding. Sycamore trees do not want to die, tiny trees popping up all over the lawn where the roots are! We also moved the chickens to another temporary area using their new coop so the work on the house could continue.
The shell of the workshop is now completed, the windows are in and the first coat of render has been put on. We still need to get power and water into the building but it is now water tight so the inside has been "black-jacked" and a framework for the insulation and boarding has been put up ready for me and Karen to get the electrics and Celotex sorted out. Jason then removed all the render from the house and revealed another array of problems, enough to make most people just give up but Jason just takes it in his stride and tells you what needs to be done. I don't know what we would do without him! The problems uncovered include, the chimney is not attached to the house in any way and is free standing; The whole side of the house by the old oil store area is completely damp up to about 4 feet; the windows that had been replaced in the past had also been moved sideways so the lintals are no longer supported on one side; the pillar that held up the gate arch was also not attached to anything and could fall over at any time; all the brickwork below the front bedroom window was completely loose; the 2 courses of brickwork on the side of the house just fell out; and finally, above the window in the study there are 3 lintals, 2 concrete with a wooden lintal in between. So the work carries on and the cost continues to escalate...
Jason had to remove the lower courses of bricks on the front and side of the house to put in a damp proof membrane and also some air bricks. We had believed that the original house was built in the fifties but Karen spoke to an elderly local resident who remembers walking past the house on the way to school. He believes the original bungalow was built in the twenties which would explain the lack of a damp proof course.
Jason had to leave us to work on other commitments so he sent Michael to build the wood store next to the house so we won't have to go on snowy expeditions to the summer house for wood in the depths of winter. At the end of the month Karen and I turned our attentions back to the front bedroom which I really want to get finished before the cold weather sets in again. We removed the floor and prepared the room for the underfloor heating and I chopped up a lot more wood ready for the winter while Karen continued to try and keep on top of the front garden.
The workshop is progressing nicely and the outer shell and roof are nearly finished, it is looking really good and will look great when the rendering is done. We decided to put a gable above the doors to give it a bit of a feature and make the building more interesting. I'm hoping to install a clock there in the future.
Unfortunately the back garden still looks like a bomb site as we haven't had the chance to put top soil on top of the trenches and grass the area. Plus the patio is in a real state so we need to start thinking about getting some stone slabs to get an area looking nice and useable. As part of this we need to relocate the chickens again so Karen identified and bought a new house for them, less than £200 for a really good coop. Just need to clear an area to put it.
I also took delivery of my black Nissan Leaf (very pleased) so the poor Volvo is relegated to the back garden and the van hasn't been used in weeks. Now need replace the shed with a small garage to keep it safe until it becomes a classic (you may laugh, but in 20 years time....). His and hers electric cars, how very twee! We went to London for Julie's 50th and on the way back the train stopped in Gillingham so we had to get a taxi home costing £35. Karen pointed out that this was the same cost as the electricity used to travel 2,250 miles in the Leaf.
I put together the cupboards for the music room to store all our music books, DVDs and CDs. That room is almost finished, only the access hatch needs to be replaced with something less noticable.
The soak-aways, basically milk bottle crates, were delivered and put in place then the pipes were installed and connected before the trenches were back filled. Just need to put up some guttering and we will finally have some drainage for the games room, as well as a drain for the shower so we can start using the sauna again! Twenty three tonnes of ballast was delivered so the foundations for the workshop were put in. I used Izzy to lower the level of the ground around it to keep the finished roof height as low as possible. The first row of blocks were laid and another six tonnes of road stone was delivered to prepare the base. The new plastic mains water pipe and stop cock was installed and I connected this to the rest of the plumbing in the house so we no longer have any of the decaying steel pipe apart from outside the wall running down the road. This means we can sort out the drive without having to worry about digging it up later. The only problem is that the pipe which supplied the workshop must have been connected to the old pipe under the conservatory somewhere so it no longer works. We will need to run a new pipe from the house to the workshop to get the water working again.
Karen carried on digging out the border to keep it under control and I had to re-hang the ensuite door due to the lintal problems in the lounge which caused the floor to drop by around 10mm. The workshop was built up and the new roof trusses were delivered ready to be fitted.
We also dismantled the last of the pergola and started preparing the area for a proper installation, but that was put on hold when work really got going on the workshop. We emptied the last of the content and then I demolished the building with Izzy, although she is in serious need of a service as the battery will not charge and the PTO solenoid has jammed. This meant that the 800mm deep hole for the back-gate post had to be dug by hand, through solid flint and hard clay. The new gates were installed which look really nice, much better than the old metal things that had been there.
I installed a new circuit and meter for the car charger so we can monitor how much electricity it is actually using. I also installed the remaining pipe to connect the new stop cock in the services cupboard in the hallway to the house plumbing and then turned off the old stop cock in the kitchen (after dismantling a cupboard to get to it!). While I was doing this Karen removed the plants from the border ready for the new mains feed into the house which will be laid when we hire a 3 ton digger to dig soak-aways, trenched and the new workshop foundations. Izzy just isn't man enough for that job but after the base of the old workshop was broken up I transported everything round the front into the four skips we hired.
The digger arrived so we spent one day digging the workshop foundations, two days digging all the trenches and soak-aways in the back garden, then another two days digging the front garden. An unbelievable amount of soil, clay and flint came out but luckily our neighbour lent me his dumper, although I had to use Izzy's new battery to run it, then keep swapping the battery to start the tractor. I turned off the electricity and re-configured the consumer unit to include a second RCD switch (split load) and also to correct the position of the main switch left in the wrong place by the electrician. The nuisance tripping seems to have stopped. Karen dug over the border on the left side of the front garden to prepare it for planting, a big job due to the neglect it has had for the past year.
We finally got our first electric car, a Nissan Leaf. Or should I say, my company bought a Leaf for Karen, although I have also booked one for myself in July. We got a quote for the Podpoint car charger from BT but they highlighted a few minor issues with our electric (like the lack of a ground spike). That is more work that will need to be done. Karen continued to try and keep on top of the garden which is a bit of a nightmare at the moment and the grass strimmer died which doesn't make the job any easier.
We didn't get much done on the house because we also went to New Orleans for John's wedding. Jason came around while we were away and fitted the shower tray in the hot tub room so now we can get on with that and finally start using the sauna again. The new gates were delivered which look great but will need to be stored until we can get them fitted. Before work could start on the workshop we had to move the chicken run. We set up a temporary run next to the house and moved the chickens, then I demolished the workshop using Izzy and a length of rope.
While Karen did some tidying of the front garden I started the month by boxing in the ducting that runs through the downstairs bedroom getting it ready to be plastered, however that is still quite some time off. I cleaned and cleared out this room, putting all the tools and plasterboard etc in the hot tub room, so at least it is useable. Karen waxed the cupboard door and a length of skirting while I put aqua panel up in the hot tub room and prepared plumbing and electrics for the shower. We haven't had a sauna in a long time so it will be good to get the shower working so we can get back to using it. I continued to box in the ducting above the front door and also converted the light in the porch so that it is triggered by a movement sensor.
In preparation for when I can get some money together and also to make life a little more difficult for the rats, I cleared most of workshop ready to be demolished. Evidence of mice and rats everywhere including in the traps that were set! I hope to be able to start this job in April. Julie and Graham came to take away our remaining oil so we should be able to remove the tank and clear the area soon. I hung a new oak door to lounge which Karen waxed and I finished the frame of the hallway services cupboard as well as putting in a door lining and fitting a door. While doing this I noticed that there is unfortunately still a damp problem under the window of the music room.
After a lazy start I did finally get around to doing some work on the house this month. I started by clearing up the games room of all the boxes, carpets, wood and ducting that had been stored there. I removed the cupboard above the front door and replaced the ceiling of the porch before continuing the ducting from the hall, through the front bedroom and up into the eaves. From there ducting was installed to vents in the downstairs front bedroom and the study. There is just enough ducting left to feed into the upstairs bedroom when it we get around to finishing that room, which we originally planned to do last year before the whole lounge saga began.
Other than that I only managed a few other jobs including a bit more skirting on the landing and putting in a motion sensor for the light in the porch. I also finally installed and wired up lights in the hot tub room, about time!